Early Saturday morning people were streaming back to the convention centre. They were heading to one of the many Shacharit services held in advance of the 10am Torah service. I was there early not for Shacharit, but because there was an 8am rehearsal for Torah readers, and my husband Jeff Denaburg was reading, as were Sara Charney and Eric Petersiel.
Different from previous years, the Torah readings were done all around the room, at the same time with the Torah scroll held aloft while it was being read. The cacophany of voices was perhaps discordant to some, but served to bring Torah down from the bimah at the far end of the hall to mini bimot scattered around, allowing multiple people to feel that they were in community, and more people had group aliyot. The concept seemed crazy on paper but worked brilliantly.
After services, there were many lunch options – table service followed by study or music, or a box lunch before heading out to places such as the renowned San Diego zoo, or hiking in the hills around the city. Reflecting on my day at the end of Shabbat, I should have picked an option that took me out of the convention centre, but hiking with heels and a tallit seemed a little silly! I assume there was time to go back and change! Instead I opted for a session with Ron Wolfson on Relational Judaism.
Minutes after the session ended I walked down the hall for the WRJ Board Installation. Filled with joy, music and many people, I watched as our Sara Charney, Lyn Feldman and Carole Sterling were installed on the WRJ Board. Mazal Tov to all!
I finally stepped out of the convention centre, and returned to my hotel around 5:30pm. Since our HBT dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter was planned for 6pm, it appeared that a shabbat afternoon snooze was not to be. Twelve of the HBT delegation came for dinner (Pnina, Lyn, Etienne, Corinne, Jill, Nancy, Mark, Peter and Eva, Jeff, myself and Rabbi Appleby) along with some other distinguished guests, Rabbi Bill Tepper (now in Chattanooga) and Rabbi Sharon Sobel (now in the Chicago area). It was lovely!
Shabbat was not over yet – we haven’t done Havdalah! We returned to the convention centre for a celebration of WRJ’s 100th Anniversary and a presentation of the Jane Evans Award to Anat Hoffman for all her tireless social action work in her career, but most recently for the Women of the Wall, and the Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC). Ironically, Anat had lost her voice over shabbat, and could not vocally accept her award, however Noa Sattath, her colleague spoke her words while Anat pantomimed them. It is not often that Anat is speechless. More music followed as the 100th anniversary of WRJ moved into the beginning of the 75th year of NFTY. With over 100 youth on stage we sang Debbie Friedman’s lovely Havdallah, the whole hall linked arm in arm swaying and singing.
Shabbat was over, an extra special shabbat at Biennial.